Tony LaRussa's Ultimate Baseball is in a class by itself among baseball games from the early 90s. While the arcade mode of play is passable, it's the simulation mode where this game really shines. Whether you replay the 1990 season, use all-time greats such as the 1927 or 1961 Yankees or put together your own teams with the fantasy manager expansion disk, you'll feel like you're there at the ballpark, sitting in the dugout and guiding your team to victory. You'll swear you can smell the freshly-mown grass and hear the roar of the crowd as your fielders make diving catches and your hitters smack towering home runs.
When you want to change pitchers, for example, you'll need to warm up your relievers (up to two at a time) in the bullpen first, which will take a couple batters. Don't leave them there too long, though, or they'll grow tired. You can also visit the mound and see how your pitcher is doing, although you'll have to give him the hook if you go out there a second time in the same inning. Your pitching coach will give you his opinion of your player's condition, although his comments are limited to either "Get him out of there" or "He looks fine to me." While it's not admittedly as helpful as the pitch count and other stats which the computer provides before you make your decision, it still adds to the feel of the game.
You can play exhibition games or a full season, which comes in 81-game or 162-game variations complete with the playoffs and the World Series. If you want to guide a single team, you can mark all their games and allow the computer to play out the rest. You'll even get the scores in progress of other games in both leagues during your own contest. Interleage play isn't possible and expansion teams such as the Marlins and the Rockies aren't available since this game predates them (you also play in the old two divisions per league format). Also, the expansion disks come with teams which are assembled from the greatest players which ever played for them, but there isn't anyone listed in there who was active in 1990. As a consequence, teams such as the Yankees and the Indians are stocked with incredible players while younger clubs such as the Expos and the Blue Jays are simply terrible despite the fact that they had some good players in the 1980s and early 1990s. Rights to those players couldn't be an issue, because all the clubs from 1990 are represented.
There is also an annoying bug in this game where groundballs hit into the corner of the stadium will disappear. The hitter will score an inside-the-park home run, but the fielder never finds it and the game simply hangs there, unwilling to even let you pause or quit. I assume this was fixed in later versions. It doesn't happen very often, though.
Graphics: very fluid motion compared to other games of that era
Sound: nothing too exciting
Enjoyment: a blast for baseball enthusiasts
Replay Value: lots of variations to choose from
Tony La Russa's Ultimate Baseball (named after the manager of the Oakland Athletics at the time) was Strategic Simulations' short-lived foray into sports games. The simulation here is of a full season of major league baseball. You can view statistics for every team, and play with one or two players, or manage teams while the computer plays through the season for you. Players have injury records and performance streaks.
The game could be enhanced with several add-on disks, sold separately: Great Teams 1901-1968, A.L. Stadiums, N.L. Stadiums, Classic Stadiums, and Fantasy Manager, which let you draft players into new teams and leagues.
The original in Stormfront Studios' popular baseball game series combines a high production value action game with a detailed and accurate statistical simulation. The result is Tony La Russa's Ultimate Baseball, one of the very few baseball games that strike a near-perfect balance between action and simulation. In Stormfront's own words: "Built on the tradition of Earl Weaver Baseball, Tony's all-new strategy was created in collaboration with award-winning major league manager Tony La Russa. Included among its many outstanding features are a complete set of manager options, full season replay, detailed statistical leaders, and the innovative "fly ball cursor" which, for the first time in computer gaming, gives players an accurate and controllable method to catch fly balls."
Aside from being a great game, TLRUB is also notable for introducing many new features to the genre. It was one of the first series to offer full-career play, play-by-play recording capabilities, and even great coaching tips from La Russa himself to teach you his tricks of the trade. The graphics is smooth and very well done for its time, with a very intuitive interface. Although the career mode is restricted only to US-based teams, the multitudes of options will keep any coach occupied for months on end. Another hallmark that sets the game apart is the sheer flexibility: you can customize leagues, create players and make trades. The game even includes a large amount of stack tracking, so that you can see when players will be hot or cold. And when you create your own players, you can even choose what type of player he will be (e.g. whether he will start off hot and cool off near the end of the season, or stay cold in the beginning and be unstoppable near the end).
Overall, TLRUB may never match Earl Weaver Baseball's reputation as a truly revolutionary game, or Hardball series in terms of unmatched action on the pitch, but it's definitely a must-have if you're looking for a game that excels in both the managing and playing aspects.
People who downloaded Tony La Russa's Ultimate Baseball have also downloaded:
Tony La Russa Baseball II, Tony La Russa Baseball 3, Oldtime Baseball, Earl Weaver Baseball 2, Hardball V Enhanced (a.k.a. Hardball 5 Enhanced), Front Page Sports: Baseball Pro '98, Earl Weaver Baseball, Front Page Sports Baseball Pro
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